European {Honeymoon-Inspired} Travel Journal: Paris {again!}

Feb 27, 2012

Entry No. 14: Paris, p.2

As promised, here's a glimpse of J+I's anniversary vacay {10 years together, 3 married!} back to Paris. Get ready, it's a looooong post! Hugs to all who shared their insight and wisdom of the city with us! And if you'd like, you can see my first travel entry on Paris here.



It was our first time visiting the Sainte Chapelle in the Conciergerie {above, left} and I'm really glad I went into it blindly ... I hadn't read much about it or seen any images of the interior. We were going based solely on advice from friends that it was not to be missed. Glad we listened. The first sight of the second level literally took my breath away. The stained glass glowed with brilliant color as the sunlight streamed through ... it felt like we were standing in a jewel box!


Another first-time experience: We climbed the {never-ending!} spiral staircases of Notre Dame so we could marvel at Paris from the top of those lovely iconic towers. The incredible views made the claustrophobic feeling in the stairwells and tired legs well worth it. :o)



Yum! Poire glace from the original Berthillion on the charming Rue Saint-Louis en L'Ile. {More on this in the tips below}


The day before our trip, I was reminded of the love lock bridges. Don't ask me why but my husband has somehow accumulated a sizeable lot of locks {?!?} so I grabbed one and threw it in our luggage. We added our own lock to the bridge right behind Notre Dame, Pont de l'Archevêché. Together, we tossed the key into the Seine. I know, awwww! :P {Read more about this in the tips below}


The gargoyles atop Notre Dame were so cool. There was a pelican, an elephant and even a wizard! Who knew?


I had heard that Pierre Herme macarons could rival Ladurée so when J spotted this one, we had to try a few. We picked out a chocolate, grapefruit and olive oil variety and were underwhelmed. :o( Back to Ladurée!


I love how creative people get with the locks. How fun is this turtle lock?!


Love the green stalls along the Seine that always sell the most beautiful antique books.


We made it to the Porte de Vanves flea market! OMG. Despite my frostbitten nose and freezing hands, I was in heaven. I came home with some serious treasure. {Read more below}


The picture does these crepes no justice. Best Citron Crêpe I've ever had ... and possibly the best mint tea, too. This little crêperie was right around the corner from our hotel and we just couldn't stay away! {Read more below about Creposuk.}


I debated over devoting a full post to Maison Deyrolle. I've been wanting to visit this Parisian institution for years and even though I was super excited and had an idea of what to expect, my mind was still utterly blown. Everything I felt about taxidermy was reinforced - It is an art. It is amazingly beautiful. And I *must* acquire a dashing fox for our living room and an enchanted white peacock for our kitchen .. and maybe, someday, a gorgeous 90,000 zebra for our bedroom! Yes, I am completely serious.

The care that is taken with these elegant animals is almost heartwarming. They all have such animated and truly life-like expressions and my heart jumped a little when I got near the tigers ... the panther ... the lions ... they all looked soooo real. The eyes are exquisite. Taxidermy at its finest. Animals truly honored. 

While we were there, a little English boy was being treated to a skeleton of a fine crocodile from the Nile. How fun is that? If J+I ever end up adding a little lovebug to our family, we will have to make another Deyrolle pilgrimage. I can't imagine how wondrous this shop would be to young eyes.


The displays were fantasically edited. I really adored the dining scene! And the back room was filled with curiosites filed away in hundreds of drawers. J found me these exquisite butterflies that I almost brought home with me:


We made it to Musee d'Orsay. Aside from the magnificent collection of art, I loved that you could see the inside of the famous old train station clock ...and the crowd taking photos of Paris, too.


You know I can't stay away from Ladurée. Tarte Tatin with Marie Antoinette's tea was divine. Really, you must explore beyond the macaron menu.

 

Would a trip to Paris really be complete without a few smooches on the steps of Sacre Couer??


The original Chanel. Swooooon.


Enjoying a Ladurée macaron in the Tuileries. What better way to enjoy a sunset?


I'm trying to take more people shots when we travel and I'll admit, I suck at it! Alas, this guy looked so Parisian to me in a vintage way on the metro ... and I spotted the lovely lady right after we got off the train at Gare de L'Est. Love the fur, the bag, the hat. The *look.*


The staircase in our hotel - love!


Sniff, sniff ... Au revoir, Paris!

CB's Top Tips for Paris:
{Note: Please also see my original Top Tips for Paris. The following tips are to be considered in addition to those.}

- Do visit La Maison Deyrolle. 46 rue du Bac. Paris VIIe. As discussed above, it is soooo worth a visit. And perhaps a savored purchase.

- If you're interested in flea markets, Porte de Vanves is a crown jewel. Just take the metro to Porte de Vanves and follow the signs {or the crowds}. It goes on every weekend, without exception. While you never know what to expect as vendors and wares are constantly changing, I found the artwork divine. There were artists selling charcoal renditions of nudes as well as scenes of Paris ... there were framed oil paintings and watercolors. I picked up 6 cardboard pieces from a vintage seamstress that have gorgeous and vibrant fabric swatches arranged - I'm planning on framing all six to create a mini wall gallery that is unique, Parisian and colorful ... I will try to share soon. I also picked up a fabulous fur stole, a vintage bee brooch with rhinestones, a Christian Dior tie for J along with a very Paul Rudd-esque sweater for J and an amazing French milk pitcher. 

- Climb the towers at Notre Dame. If you're looking for an alternative view of Paris, this was fantastic. We could easily spot the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur perched on its hill, the Conciergerie, the Arc de Triumph and lots more. Fun to get a good and close-up look at the many gargoyles, too!

- Take a stroll along the Rue Saint-Louis and stop at one of the many Berthillions for some extraordinary ice cream. I stopped at the original Berthillion located at 31 Rue Saint Louis and ordered a scoop of Poire {pear}. I've never had ice cream that tasted so much like the flavor it is intended to taste like. If it had been warmer, we would have revisited for more flavor sampling.

- Plan ahead and bring a special lock and key to add to either the Pont de l'Archevêché or the Pont des Arts. Find a fun antique lock and have it engraved with you and your love's name and a special message. We saw so many that had done that and I kind of wished we had instead of using our boring lock with my Sharpie writing! However, even if you forget, you can easily buy a cheap lock at a tourist shop or streetside vendor and add a little note to it yourself to at least partake in the fun. :o)

Musee d'Orsay. 62, rue de Lille. If you go, try and purchase tickets ahead of time. J+I probably waited an hour and a half in a snaking line and we were there around 10a. It was worth the wait but would have been sweeter without it.

Ladurée. I just can't NOT recommend this as many times as I go. We enjoyed tea and pastries at the lovely one located at 21 Rue Bonaparte this time around. It had a fun Asian theme inside and I was convinced that Karl Lagerfeld was seated 4 tables down from us. J insisted that I was crazy and later I rationalized that he was right ... perhaps not KL but this guy had some serious style with amazing rings, a great ascot and sunglasses inside. ;o)

- The Conciergerie + Saint Chapelle. I'm growing more and more obsessed with Marie Antoinette so this was one of the top things on my list. The Conciergerie was the first palace in Paris for the Kings of France and later transformed into a prison during the French Revolution. MA stayed here and they have recreated her cell which was very interesting. The Saint Chapelle was a welcome sight amongst the dreariness of the dreadful prison memories - such bright and cheery colors amidst the cold stone grey of the Conciergerie. Later that day, J+I discovered Shakespeare and Co., a little bookshop across from Notre Dame. My husband is rather obsessed with books so it was hard to pull him out of here but I was happy to pick up a biography on Marie Antoinette and a book about living in Provence. :o)

- Creposuk. Nothing 'suk-y' about this. OMG. If you're staying in the Latin Quarter, go here for a late-night snack. Amazing. They also have fun games to play in the menu, interesting books ... and a pretty unique bathroom - just check it out. It's called 'The Disco.' lol, you'll see.

- In this post, I asked if anyone knew of an area with great shops for vintage jewelry. I found that Rue Saint-Louis is great for an interesting variety of hand-crafted and antique jewelry. But my favorite was the Porte de Vanves flea market - I was very happy with the bee brooch I scored and with this next piece of jewelry I'm about to tell you about ...

- While this isn't a tip, per say, it is something I feel I should share and that you should know about. It is one of the many scams that go on in Europe and one that I wasn't aware of until this trip. While we were walking along the Seine to the Musee d'Orsay, we spotted a scruffy-looking guy pick up what appeared to be a gold wedding band. He seemed excited and looked at me. I smiled and he came closer and spoke in French. When he realized we were American, he asked me in English if I thought the ring was gold. He handed it to me and I saw that it was marked '18k' so I said that it definitely appeared to be gold. I smiled again, feeling like it must be his lucky day and how this good find would help him out and handed it back to him as J+I continued on our walk. He turned around again and said that he'd like to give the ring to us as we were a 'lovely couple' and 'deserved it.' I felt a little uncomfortable and didn't feel quite right about taking the ring from someone who looked like he could really use some money but after he insisted several times, I gave in, took it and thanked him. He then turned around again and asked if we wouldn't mind sparing some money for him to buy lunch. That's when I really felt things were fishy. I reached in my bag and pulled out a 5 note. He then wanted coins. J gave him some loose change and he finally relented after we told him we had no more cash on hand. Later on, I googled 'gold ring scam in Paris' and found pages upon pages of other people's stories about the same scam. The ring, as I later suspected, is not gold but brass and relatively worthless. I actually happen to really like the design and have been wearing it as a thumb ring and on a necklace. I think it's kind of a fun conversation piece from our time in Paris and as far as scams go, I find this one rather charming. {You can see a picture of what the ring looks like here} Much better than pickpocketing or blatantly begging, don't you think? Has this scam ever been played on you? So many people's stories online included feeling foolish + duped and angry ... I have to say, I don't feel any of those. In the end, I feel like it was an interesting exchange ... I was 'sold' in a way a worthless but kind of cute ring and we gave a guy in need some money. Win-win in my mind. What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this! Now that you've read this, what do you think you would do if it happened to you?

{Read about the gold ring scam and others here /// Very interesting recap of this blogger's own experience with the gold ring scam and tres interesting comments, too}

We didn't make it to a show at the Moulin Rouge but based on everyone's feedback, I think we will have to include it next time we visit. I'm hoping to go back this spring and take a side trip to see Monet's gardens in Giverny ... head back to the Porte de Vanves flea market ... maybe explore the catacombs ... head to the top of the Pompidou ... and do some real shopping {suggestions??} :o) And I *really* want to head back next December to catch The Nutcracker at the Opera Garnier - have any of you been??? Tell me your thoughts!

+ the practical info:
I've had many inquiries about where I stay when I travel. Here are the two hotels we have stayed at in Paris. 
Hotel Belfast, which is a stone's throw from the Arc de Triumph, is centrally located and beautifully decorated with Parisian antiques. Nice breakfast, too. Perfect for a first-time visit to Paris.
Hôtel du Collège de France is where we stayed for this trip. It's located in the Latin Quarter - two blocks from Notre Dame. Very convenient to the metro. It was the perfect location for this trip. Clean + charming with a lovely and helpful staff. Maybe not as luxe as Hotel Belfast but the price was fantastique!

Let me know if you have any suggestions and/or questions! I love hearing from you!

If you've missed my other Travel Journal entries, you can catch up here! Bisous + happy travels!

All images by moi.

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